It may have finally arrived, but there are still many questions surrounding Frank Ocean’s second studio album Blonde
Typical. You’re waiting for one Frank Ocean album for four years, then potentially three turn up at once.
The R&B artist has been keeping his fans in a state of suspense about a follow-up to the critically adored Channel Orange for about three years – with various false release dates throughout.
However, last Friday (August 19) saw the release of visual album Endless, followed by the release of studio album Blonde (stylised blond) just yesterday (August 21) – both currently available exclusively through Apple Music.
— Apple Music (@AppleMusic) August 20, 2016
You would think that would be the end of the mystique surrounding the new album and Ocean’s years out of the spotlight – but here are five questions still standing about Frank’s Blonde.
Did the album title change?
From all initial reports, Ocean’s album was initially titled Boys Don’t Cry – with the title featuring on much of the teaser material from magazine covers to the infamous ‘overdue library card‘. But it’s unclear what led to the change of title at the eleventh hour.
Although the album title did change, the moniker Boys Don’t Cry is still being used as the co-label for the album release (alongside hip-hop giant Def Jam) – as well as being the name of a limited edition magazine which accompanied the release.
Maybe the title never was Boys Don’t Cry – after all Ocean certainly doesn’t give us the ongoing narration of Kanye West.
Are there really two different versions?
As he says in the opening lines of ‘Nikes’:
“I got two versions. I got two versions”
Ocean launched the new album with a number of pop-up shops in four cities, with London being the only location outside of the USA.
Swathes of fans queued outside the pop-up stores and were gifted with a free copy of a 360-page ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ magazine which included a physical version of Blonde inside.
Here’s the kicker though: this physical copy has a different track-listing to the version currently streaming on Apple Music – featuring two new songs (‘Mitsubishi Sony’ and ‘Easy’) whilst missing seven tracks from the online version (ironically including first single ‘Nikes’).
Was David Bowie involved?
A number of big artists are credited on Blonde, but two names have got the internet rumour mill whirling away.
Album contributors pic.twitter.com/XLNOXTZEIS
— steven j. horowitz (@speriod) August 20, 2016
That implies, unlike acts such as Elliott Smith, The Beatles and Stevie Wonder with sample credits – that Bowie worked with Ocean before his death earlier this year.
However, because this is as detailed as the credits go so far, there is no way of knowing in what way the Thin White Duke was involved.
Why are so many guest vocalists left uncredited?
As mentioned before, a number of big musical names have made their way on to Frank’s highly anticipated record, including Andre 3000, Beyonce, Kanye West, Radiohead‘s Johnny Greenwood and Kendrick Lamar.
Kendrick Lamar – photo: Getty
Unlike the physical release, Apple Music’s version includes no credits for the above mentioned names. As Apple is usually a stickler when it comes to details, it can only be assumed that this was a conscious decision from the artist.
Perhaps Ocean is delivering a giant middle finger to hip-hop culture’s obsession with name-dropping – or even the internet’s love of knowing every detail of an album and how it was put together. It’s unsurprising that he would choose a level of mystery over divulging details.
Why all the delays?
We’ll never know why the release dates for Blonde came and went like they did – but after receiving two albums, pop-up shops, a 40 minute music video and a 360-page magazine – there is very little left to complain about.
In a year where we’ve lost both Bowie and Prince, it’s only fitting that there’s a bright young artist who can still play with perception and expectation while still delivering something of artistic merit.
Blonde is available now via Apple Music